An Equitable Sharing of Resources?
We are led to believe that Western societies are free and open. In many respects this is true: freedom of speech and the right to protest still exist, albeit within ever-tighter constraints. At root, however, much of what we see and hear in the corporate media has been shaped by money, power and greed. What passes for vibrant public debate is often a sham.
Some media professionals are aware of this, but they keep their heads down and stick to the narrow job requirements demanded of them. But many journalists cannot, or will not, grasp the notion that there are serious limits to news reporting and debate; limits that are set by powerful interests in society. The very possibility is viewed as an affront to journalistic pride and hard-bitten common sense.
A few journalists, however, are very well aware of the boundaries. They consciously seek to exploit occasional gaps in the corporate news blanket smothering reality, and to point the public to facts and perspectives that discomfit the powerful.
The issue of
It was only last month that news media reported the bombshell dropped by Alan Greenspan, former head of the US Federal Reserve:
“I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: the Iraq war is largely about oil.” (Bob Woodward, ‘Greenspan Is Critical Of Bush in Memoir,’
After that remarkable line from his new book was made public, Greenspan rapidly backtracked. He “clarified” that he was talking about “security” and that oil was “not [...] the administration’s motive.” (Bob Woodward, ‘Greenspan: Ouster Of Hussein Crucial For Oil Security,’
The basis for such discourse was established before the invasion in 2003, when we were relentlessly told that Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction had to be rooted out and ‘stability’ brought to the region. The doctrine of reconciliation and democracy was reaffirmed when George Bush gave a speech in January 2007 in which he set out ‘benchmarks’ to measure
“To give every Iraqi citizen a stake in the country’s economy,
Bush also pledged that: “military and civilian experts [will] help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance. And Secretary [Condoleezza] Rice will soon appoint a reconstruction coordinator in
Thus, the approved framework of oil revenue ‘sharing’, underpinning
A Financial Times editorial hails a “national reconciliation package” to include “a law governing the country’s oil and gas industry” and “directed at [...] discord between Iraq ‘s ethnic and confessional groups.” (Leader, ‘The irreconcilable. As deadlines pass, time is running out for a political solution in
The Times notes the guiding “principle that all oil revenues should be divided between the Iraqi regions”. (Carl Mortished, ‘Western oil major’s bid marks breakthrough for troubled Iraqi industry,’ The Times, August 23, 2007)
The ‘anti-war’ Independent writes of “redistributing the cash [oil revenues] to the regions – which the new oil law states must be done in proportion to regions’ populations”. (Saeed Shah, ‘Foreign companies in scramble for 10 new Kurdish oil contracts,’ The Independent, March 23, 2007)
To date, no oil law has been approved by the Iraqi parliament despite extraordinary pressure from the
The Reality On – And Under – The Ground
Contradicting the thrust of the above mainstream version of events, PLATFORM, a London-based human rights group monitoring the oil industry, argues that the oil law “has been wrongly described as providing a mechanism for sharing revenue among Iraq’s sectarian groups; in fact, this law does +not+ deal with that issue, which will be the subject of a separate law, not yet drafted”. (PLATFORM, ‘The Iraqi oil sector, privatisation and the
PLATFORM activist Eva Jasiewicz told us:
“The mainstream media, with few exceptions, has uncritically reproduced White House and Foreign Office propaganda over Iraqi oil policy. The reporting has not been lazy; it has actively colluded in the repeated circulation of US-UK lies over revenue sharing, oil for peace and reconciliation as the goals of the law.” (Email to Media Lens, October 9, 2007)
“The story of the corporate colonization of
The Federation of Oil Unions, the largest trade union in the Iraqi oil sector with over 26,000 members, also starkly challenges the media message of “reconciliation”:
“Depending on how it is applied, the current draft of the law could increase poverty, undermine state institutions and worsen the conflict in Iraq.” (PLATFORM, op. cit.)
In reality, Orwellian-named ‘production sharing agreements’ are being prepared which would hand over the lead role in the development of oil resources to corporations under highly-profitable contracts of up to 30 years. Unsurprisingly, this has been met with considerable opposition in
Such lucrative contracts are being sought by US-allied sectarian and political blocks within
“The weak, sectarian and fractious Maliki government has proved to be just what the US needs at this time: one that is willing to acquiesce in US military offensives and to pursue the handover of oil to the multinationals, while at the same time applying the harsh economic policies dictated by the IMF, particularly over the domestic price of fuel.” (Ibid.)
Moreover, the main ITIC lobbying document, ‘Petroleum and
Since the first draft of the oil law was completed in July 2006, British officials in both
This scandal has barely caused a ripple across the corporate media.
Progress Is Needed Soon!
A rare exception hinting at the truth about Iraqi oil was an Associated Press report in March 2007 which described “close associates” of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki expressing “fears the Americans will torpedo his government if parliament does not pass a law to fairly [sic] divvy up the country’s oil wealth among Iraqis.” American officials also made it clear to the “hardline” Iraqi prime minister “that they want an Iraqi government in place by year’s end acceptable to the country’s Sunni Arab neighbors, particularly
Then, in June 2007, a news story appeared at the top of the front page of the New York Times:
“U.S. Warns Iraq That Progress Is Needed Soon”.
Admiral William J. Fallon, the leading American military commander for the
Michael Gordon, Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, had been invited to sit in on this “closed-door conversation”. Gordon stated candidly that “it was only at the end of the meeting that American officials agreed that it could be on the record”. In other words, as columnist David Broder noted, the NYT’s Pentagon correspondent was invited by the
“From an administration known for its secrecy, this deviation means only one thing: So desperate is the need to push Maliki into action that even the [
This bullying behaviour is, of course, standard for
“I Trust This Meets With Your Approval”: An Exchange With The BBC
On September 6, a piece by BBC business reporter Robert Plummer, ‘Little progress on halting
Plummer amplified the standard
We emailed him:
“What evidence do you have that the
We pointed out to Plummer that PLATFORM argues that the “law has been wrongly described as providing a mechanism for sharing revenue among Iraq’s sectarian groups; in fact, this law does not deal with that issue, which will be the subject of a separate law, not yet drafted”. (PLATFORM, op. cit.)
We also reminded him that there is considerable concern that the proposed oil law would benefit western (and other) corporations at the expense of the Iraqis themselves. We asked him why he had marginalised, indeed ignored, such valid perspectives. Within minutes, we received the following reply:
“When someone has written a piece about one subject, it seems a bit perverse to write asking why it wasn’t about an entirely different subject. I didn’t set out to write about the rights and wrongs of the Iraqi oil law — I wrote about reconstruction and why it’s costing so much money.
“I didn’t ‘marginalise’ or ‘ignore’ anyone’s arguments. I simply mentioned the oil law in passing, in a necessarily brief fashion, because it was peripheral to my theme.
“The ‘oil law’ in my piece was shorthand for the whole mass of oil-related legislation that is in prospect in
“I’m sorry I didn’t write the piece you clearly wanted to read — perhaps we can do that at a later date.” (Email from Robert Plummer, September 7, 2007)
It is apparently a matter of “detail”, that “only a lawyer would be interested in”, that legal measures for oil revenue ‘sharing’ have yet to be drafted. Regular readers will be familiar with this standard plea by professional journalists that there is ‘insufficient space’.
In our reply, we pressed the point that Plummer had still not addressed:
“What evidence do you have that the
We received a final response:
“Never let it be said that we ignore the views of our readers. I have now amended the sentence in question to read: ‘Now the
“Many thanks for doing that. It’s a small but important difference.
“After the disaster that has befallen
A similar challenge from Media Lens to Andrew Ward, the Financial Times’s White House correspondent, on his reporting of the Iraqi oil law, elicited this curious response:
“Newspaper deadlines do not, unfortunately, allow for the cross-checking of every statement given by the White House. But I will keep your email as reference for the next time I write about the issue.” (Email, September 21, 2007)
This reads like a straightforward admission that the FT generally takes at face value any statement issued by the White House, despite all the deceptions of the war against
Concluding Remarks – Not About Oil, Of Course!
The real agenda behind
“The war in
What is routinely missing from the corporate news media is historical context shedding light on
Based on copiously-documented historical evidence,
“The basic missions of global management have endured from the early postwar period, among them: containing other centers of global power within the ‘overall framework of order’ managed by the United States; maintaining control of the world’s energy supplies; barring unacceptable forms of independent nationalism; and overcoming ‘crises of democracy’ within domestic enemy territory.” (Ibid., p.16)
But these truths, necessary for any public understanding of world affairs, are deemed too ‘radioactive’ to be carried by the corporate media.
The goal of Media Lens is to promote rationality, compassion and respect for others. If you decide to write to journalists, we strongly urge you to maintain a polite, non-aggressive and non-abusive tone.
For further details of the Iraqi oil law, see websites such as Hands Off Iraqi Oil (), PLATFORM (), War on Want () and the General Union of Oil Employees in Basra ().
Write to Robert Plummer, BBC business reporter
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